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Speed & Kentucky Ham
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Speed & Kentucky Ham

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  386 ratings  ·  35 reviews
A methedrine-inspired odyssey, a painfully candid exploration of the horizons of the speed freak's world, from the drug-hazed fantasy of New York's infamous East Village to the terrifying reality of a Federal narcotics hospital, Burroughs Jr.'s two novels present a vision of alienated youth at its most raw and uncensored.

Speed follows Billy as he hustles for dope and money
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Paperback, 363 pages
Published October 1st 1993 by Overlook TP (first published 1970)
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Some Are Sicker Than Others by Andrew SeawardGo Ask Alice by Beatrice SparksEvery Silver Lining Has a Cloud by Scott StevensCrank by Ellen HopkinsA Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Substance Abuse & Addiction
128th out of 474 books — 1,099 voters
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Name of State (USA): K-Mississippi
58th out of 170 books — 14 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 706)
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Mat
Billy Burroughs Jr's life was tragic and frantic, but he certainly inherited his dad's writing skills. Burroughs Jr. only completed two full novels in his short lifetime and was working on his third when he passed. What he had written for Prakriti Junction, his third novel, was used to put together a book called 'Cursed from Birth'.

In Speed, Burroughs Jr. describes in harrowing detail his 'descent' into full-fledge amphetamine addiction in New York. It's amazing the lengths that he would go to
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Thomas
Jan 29, 2008 Thomas rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Junkies, Fans of the Beats, Alkies
Recommended to Thomas by: Albert G.
If you think Britney Spears is having a bad day/week/month/year/life… take a bite into this memoir and you’ll think Britney is living on easy street. This is gritty and powerful.
Zack
Speed is a smartly-worded novel about psychic frontiers. Kentucky Ham is great in places too, begins really well but suffers from the imposition of a diary-entries style in the Alaska part. But that's alright. Billy Burroughs' reputation as a writer is unfortunately eclipsed by the extent of his father's fame as Ur-Beat. I'll admit Burroughs Sr. is an excellent essayist, but I never really dug the cut-up method, speaking as a reader. After Burroughs Sr. shoots Billy's mother in a game of William ...more
Kerstin
On most days, I consider this my favorite book of all time. It's actually two short novels published together--the only complete works of William S. Burroughs Jr., son of the late great grandaddy of the Beat generation, who only lived 31 years, much of it in a great deal of pain. They're autobiographical, simultaneously hilarious, tragic, sweet and horrible, mainly about narcotic addiction and withdrawal and re-addiction and more withdrawal and jail and more withdrawal and, eventually, the ultim ...more
Chris
I learned about this book from Sam Kashner, who attended The Jack Kerouac School at Naropa Institute in Colorado, where he interned for Allen Ginsberg and studied under Ginsberg, William Burroughs Sr., and Gregory Corso. He also met Burroughs Jr., and mentioned in passing that he read and liked Billy's books. Since I liked Kashner's, I figured I'd give Speed and Kentucky Ham a try.

Very glad I did. Speed chronicles Billy's drug use in New York, and Kentucky Ham follows his attendance of a rehab c
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Haines
SPEED is by far the preferred work here, although KH contains some wild sentences. This really does read like Holden Caulfield on crystal meth, and I'm pretty sure WSB Jr. knew that. His life story is absolutely tragic, but the writing here shows a truly original flair for humor, observation, syntax, and persona. It is erroneous to consider his life, as it so often has been, as a miserable waste and one of the blackest marks in the saga of the Burroughs name. It certainly was not a bright spot, ...more
Cara
ugh. Not cool, and definitely not deep. Maybe I would have gotten a sick pleasure from reading these books when I was a teenager, but now they just seem dirty, gross, and unenlightened.
Zoe
a great read, loved every page, different than his brilliant father, but a wonderful writer in his own right, shame he died not knowing...
Celia Lynch
Another boring story of one fix to the next. Who cares. It's a horror.
Jess
poor billy....probably murdered by Burroughs' conman assistant.
Dan
Speed is a seemingly honest account of Burroughs autobiographical characters descent into drug abuse. Fast paced prose make for a quick and entertaining read. The narrative is consistent in its pace and tone. Kentucky Ham is written in a more standard style consistent with the authors more "normal" state of mind while recovering (presumably).Though towards the end it seems that the author is struggling to fill pages. At one point he is in AK fishing then he is in Georgia and married after AK the ...more
Jonathan Mitchell
The son of infamous "Naked Lunch" author William S. Burroughs completed two autobiographical novels during his brief, painful life, and they are collected here with an introduction by Ann Charters and an afterword by his father. "Speed" can be recommended without reservation: it's a sharp, engaging account of the teenaged Billy's misadventures in New York City while addicted to the title drug, and qualifies as a minor classic of the Beat canon. "Kentucky Ham", which documents his rehabilitation ...more
Matthew Timion
I still have mixed feelings about this one. Speed was fun to read, perhaps because the author was in the thralls of drug use while writing it. Kentucky Ham? It was clear the author was sober when he wrote it, if anything because of his sudden coherency.

Not to say that's bad.. it was just different.

In Kentucky Ham I enjoyed everything up until the author left the rehab facility. I didn't even fully understand how the transition from rehab center to Alaskan fisherman happened so quickly... Suddenl
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Beulah
This is one of my favorite books. It was introduced to me by beautiful Kerstin on a hot summer day in Naples, Italy. I remember her reading me snippets and me being glued to them. I stopped by a Barnes and Noble upon returning to the U.S., I read it, and I reread it, and then reread it some more. It's all that Kerstin says it is. I love it because it reminds me of Kerstin too. You kind of get a contact high off of reading it though, so don't read it in church or anything like that because people ...more
Liye
the essential handbook for speed freaks
Erin Beck
Jr does it almost as well as his father. Drug addiction is the center of the story. Scoring, rehab, dread, shit life, arrests, court, crying women. Jr thinks subway tracks and trees are trying to attack him, just like his father with his typewriter. This is one of those books where the persons life is so bad it makes me proud of mine. There's a lot of dread - waiting for the next bad thing to happen - Then when it does, it's not so bad. Just another bump in the road. Nothing matters anyways - it ...more
Edward
Easy to read. Which, having slight brain damage, is always important for me. Writes like his dad did in his "autobiographical" novels ("Junky" and "Queer") and, for us Gen-X wasters, there are plenty of recognisable sign-posts along his drug-addled, washed out motorway. A touch too much like reading his diary sometimes, but worth a look, if only for the genetic antecedent curiosity value of seeing if he got any of Bill Lee's wonky talent.
Susan Callaghan
This is essentially two books, but it reads as one, so I am glad it has been combined. I read it in college, then again in my late 20s. It's a more recent version of "On the Road," but more beat than "Less Than Zero." If you are into coming of age Train Wrecks, then this is an excellent read.
Tanya
i read this book back in high school. i don't even remember how it fell into my hands but I was really into it. it's kinda sad but the characters are depicted in such a way that makes you just feel like you know them! Drugstore Cowboy in a book but probably better! i will have to look it up again b/c i don't really remember how it ended. it's been more than 10 yrs.
Lauren
kentucky ham is an autobiographical story of a dope feign... it's pretty interesting and insightful...it's also a pretty easy read, i finished it quickly and its not that long. what i learned - "the only way to cure a dope addict is to give him a new brain."
Meredith
I enjoyed Kentucky Ham more. I suggest reading Burroughs "Junky" before reading this book. It will give you a clearer picture of the author. The best part of these two books is seeing the exact parallels of his life and his father's life.
Scott
This book's actually written William S. Burroughs, Jr. something people tend to overlook. He wasn't the writer his father was, but he was pretty good at writing autobiographical prose that kept the reader interested.
Wayne
Essential drug books for people who don't do drugs (as was I my late teens) might be outdated now, but when you're 18, and just finished Go Ask Alice, I couldn't get enough of these pulpy novels.
Jennifer Delpit
There was absolutely no chance that he would ever be able to step out of his father's colossal shadow. The tragedy is that he was really a brilliant, honest, heartbreakingly good writer.
Celia Lynch
Didn't like it at all. Maybe you need to be a drug addict to really relate to these type of books.
Bad enough stuck on 4 blood pressure tablets a day.
Claire
Jul 26, 2011 Claire added it
Had he lived, he would have been a better novelist than his dad, and that's saying something. Vivid, uncomfortable reading.
Jonathan Cromwell
Get a sun out meth addict to tell you story about when he was a 16 year old pot. Thats what reading this book is like.
Howard
I didn't read the second book in this set, but Speed really puts you right there. You can taste it.
Marissa Perel
The life is much more compelling than the work of little Bill
Sharlene
Burroughs' self destruction is self indulgent and quite poignant.
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William S. Burroughs III, a.k.a. William S. Burroughs Jr. or Billy Burroughs, was the son of author William S. Burroughs and Joan Vollmer.
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Cursed from Birth Speed Kentucky Ham Kentucky Ham

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